Thursday, August 24, 2017

Floors, Crowds and Hard Roads

It is hard to sum up the last few weeks in a few pages, but I will try to do my best. Hang on for the ride…

We are in the midst of getting our second house fully licensed. We have been operating under special allowance due to the crisis that Guatemala was experiencing after the fire in Hogar Seguro. But, in order to operate long-term, we have to complete all the process of upgrades, inspections and paperwork. We thought we were coming down the home stretch, but then we had a visit from the health department.

As they walked through the home, they were impressed with everything…except the floors. We were told that the concrete floors were too rough and could not be properly cleaned, so they would not pass us until the floors were finished. (I still stand amazed that the same government that was running a hell-hole place like Hogar Seguros would refuse us a health license because our floors do not meet their standards.)

So, we were left with two options: 1) Tile all the floors or 2) Do a skim coat of colored concrete. Since the second option was quicker and cheaper, we chose that.

So, we moved all of the caregivers from house 2 into house 1 while the work was being done. That meant that we had 31 people living in this house, plus staff that came during the day. It was CROWDED! But we survived like that for 10 days, due to the great attitude and hard work of our family, staff and interns. Yesterday afternoon, the kids and caregivers were able to return to house 2 and order has been (mostly) restored. The final bill topped Q10,000 (about $1,400). We hope to receive health department approval in the next day or two.

Meanwhile, I was finally able to fulfill a commitment I made almost a year ago to begin ministry in Zona Reyna. We had planned to do so early this year, but the murder of Manuel and the opening of house 2 delayed that considerably. But last week, Wanda, Jeremiah and I made the trip and the work began.

The region of Zona Reyna is very unique because of how it was settled. The region is made up almost entirely of refugees from Guatemala’s armed conflict that ended in 1996. This was a civil war between communists and capitalists, with the US backing the capitalists. This long and bloody conflict devastated the country, and many of the rural Mayans were caught in the middle.

Communist forces would enter a Mayan village and demand that they be fed. Because they had machine guns, the villagers would comply. Later, capitalist forces would come through, accuse them of being communist sympathizers because they fed the opposition, and would kill entire villages, including women and children. And the opposite would also happen, with capitalists being fed and communists doing the killing. It was, literally, a no win situation.

So entire communities made the decision to leave their villages and hide in the mountains to avoid the soldiers. They lived in fear for the duration of the war, which lasted 36 years.

When the war finally ended, a part of the negotiated peace deal with the United Nations was to relocate these displaced people. So, they used helicopters to transport these families to the completely undeveloped region of Zona Reyna. They were dropped off and each family was given two pieces of metal lamina, a bag of maseca, and a bag of beans. And they were left in a place with no roads, no hospitals, no anything. And they survived and created a new community.

Our good friends, Greg and Helaine Walton, moved to that area in 2001. There they worked to start a school and agricultural program, and the success of that work is astounding to see. It is one of the best schools in Guatemala, and almost all of the teachers there are graduates of the program. As a part of the curriculum, the kids are taught agriculture and raise peppers which they sell to pay for their education and give each student an income. The property is self-sufficient, with a well and solar power. It is truly impressive to see the difference that is being made in the name of Jesus.

About six years ago they finally cut in a road to the area. As of last year they also have a cell tower that can provide intermittent coverage and internet. And this was the area we drove to last week.

 And speaking of driving, it was quite the drive. I have driven rough and dangerous roads often since living in Guatemala, but these were among the worst. The total drive took us 11 hours, and the last 58 miles were six of those hours. Rough roads, shear cliffs and narrow bridges were among the challenges. At one point, we saw a horse in front of us lose its footing and plummet off the cliff to his death. But the view the entire way was breathtakingly beautiful.


We arrived safely last Wednesday night, and we were exhausted from the drive and long day. A quick bite to eat and we were in bed.

The next morning we set up in the school where we saw those with special needs. I was afraid we would be overwhelmed by numbers, but Greg explained that the people of the area are not used to receiving help from outsiders. Many are distrustful and it will take time for us to build trust. But we saw around 12 people with a variety of needs. A teenage girl with leg deformities. A boy born without an arm and leg. A little guy with Down Syndrome. A stroke victim. Most of them without any resources.

In the afternoon, we drove out to visit two people who could not come to the school. The first was an elderly man with undiagnosed diabetes. His blood sugar was at 585, and he has gone nearly blind and can no longer walk. Through telephone consultation with our ministry doctor, we were able to get him started on insulin to get his diabetes under control.

The second was a man with a brain tumor. They had CAT scans which showed the tumor to be large and pressing down on his brain stem. It is inoperable. His pain is tremendous and he has now gone blind. We gave him some strong pain killers and prayed with him. There is simply nothing more that we can do.

The next day, we made the long drive back out again, and arrived home that evening thoroughly wiped. I have spent a lot of time since our return reflecting on this new area of ministry and praying for God’s direction. I will be returning next month to deliver wheelchairs and do follow-ups with the people I saw. Please pray for us as we move forward.

Earlier this month, we hosted Scott and Christina Hoffman for a few days. Christina is the Director of His Safe Haven, which works with children with special needs in Liberia, Africa. Hope for Home’s Liberian Director, Don Riley, connected with them and has been providing help on that end. We have been considering long-term partnership with them to open a village for children with special needs there, and we needed some time together to sort it all out.

From the first moment, we felt a real connection with Scott and Christina, and God did some great things in our time together. It would appear that the partnership will be proceeding, and we are excited about what lies ahead.

And, speaking of Liberia, our daughter, Carissa, will be serving as the on-site Director of this new village. And her soon-to-be new husband, Steven Chapin, with joining her in that work. Carissa and Steven (Stevie) were recently engaged, so we have a wedding approaching on November 3rd. We are excited about their relationship and what God has ahead for them both. Stevie is already like a son to us, to it will be great to make his part in our family official.

This afternoon I am meeting with representatives for a ministry called Hope to Walk. They produce low cost prosthetic legs using simple design and inexpensive materials. They currently do not work in Guatemala, but we are hoping to partner with them to change that. They will train us to measure, make molds and manufacture prosthetic legs, so we can produce them right from our own warehouse here in town. This will be a huge blessing to our ministry and the people we serve.

Finally, this morning I heard the testimony of a young lady who works in our ministry. Her relationship with God was not good when she began working with us, and her entire family was struggling. But God has been moving in her life through the Holy Spirit and the example and love of our team. Her relationship with Jesus is growing daily, and God is bringing healing to her family. Addictions are being defeated and they are praying together. Her story is a beautiful reminder that Jesus truly does transform lives!

Okay, that is enough for now. God is moving, and we are excited, even though we are also tired. In our weakness, He is strong!

Blessings and love from Guatemala!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew